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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Action > Trucks > TV > Stop Motion > Holiday > Comedy > Fantasy > TV Specials > Musical > Drama > WW > Blaze Saves Christmas (2015 - 2018/Nickelodeon DVD)/Original Christmas Specials Collection (2018 upgrade/Rudolph/Frosty/Universal Blu-ray Set)/Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (2018/Paramount DVD)/SK8 Da

Blaze Saves Christmas (2015 - 2018/Nickelodeon DVD)/Original Christmas Specials Collection (2018 upgrade/Rudolph/Frosty/Universal Blu-ray Set)/Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (2018/Paramount DVD)/SK8 Dawg (2018/Lionsgate DVD)/Smallfoot (2018/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)



Picture: C+/B/C+/C+/B & C+ Sound: C+/B-/C+/C+/B & C+ Extras: D/B-/C/C-/C Main Programs: C+/B/C+/C-/C+



Our latest round of child releases includes a few for the holidays....



Blaze Saves Christmas (2015 - 2018) sounds like it could be a stand-alone special based on the Nickelodeon series, but it is yet another compilation DVD with no extras that fits the holiday, but feels like it is on auto pilot. Four episodes add up to about 90 minutes and that is fine for a themed release, but I just wish it were more.



The Original Christmas Specials Collection is a 2018 upgrade of key TV holiday classics now in the hands of Universal Pictures, who recently acquired the catalog of many of them including the original Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snow Man, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Little Drummer Boy and (why is it here?) Cricket and Hearth. Though we've reviewed most of these previously and those sets have had extras as well, including on Blu-ray, this set has new transfers in some cases and many extras, if not total repeats of the older releases. Some extras are new too. If you are a fan of these specials ands especially those who complained about odd color mastering on the older discs, you'll be happy they got it corrected here in total and this is now the set to own.



Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (2018) may seem like an odd choice for a CGI Children's title, but the 84 minutes feature-length CGI film is based on the true story of a dog who became part of the military in WWI, a subject that is disturbingly not discussed or portrayed enough, so I was happy with the content and the way it is made is not bad. It is not stunning or showy or necessarily cutting-edge, but it is smart, consistent and respects the intelligence of the young viewer and that is why it is worth a look. I'll be curious to see how this one gets picked up and talked about in the years ahead.



SK8 Dawg (2018) is yet another one of those cynical releases where live action animals are dubbed by human actors with dialogue and try to be hip. Joey Lawrence and David Arquette are the few known names involved here (Arquette is the dog Buddy) and this runs a very loooooong 92 minutes. The dog helps a young boy who is very awkward and plays like a VERY bad TV movie. Maybe this seemed like a half-decent idea on paper, but it is eventually obnoxious and it did not have to be this bad.



Finally we have Warner's new big budget CGI animated theatrical release, Smallfoot (2018) the title referring to the human (James Corden) who happens upon a home of Yetis (read the Bigfoot of the arctic, Abominable Snow-people, or snow equivalent of Bigfoot) and here come the laughs... or do they. It is a two joke film that does all the same 'funny insecure about myself' humor we've seen too often in these releases and offers little else new. Channing Tatum, Danny DeVito, Common, Gina Rodriguez, Zendaya and even LeBron James show up doing character voices, but it is not very memorable when all is said and done.


This runs 96 minutes and almost quits while it is ahead, but I did not expect much and that's what I got. Sorry to be a Scrooge, but its just above average at best.



The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Christmas Blu-ray set are all in color and look good, but Rudolph is only marginally improved over the previous Blu-ray release, while Frosty and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town are new transfers that are really impressive, so be prepared to be surprised.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Smallfoot falls in between the new transfers and older ones on the Christmas set, being a decent CGI animated production, has limited issues and is not bad if not top rate as far as such feature-length films theatrically go The anamorphically enhanced DVD image is much softer and hard to watch.


The same goes for the rest of the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image DVDs, looking good if not great and just fine for the aging format.


Smallfoot and the Christmas films are all here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but Smallfoot was made that way and the old monophonic TV specials are upgraded at best, but obviously show their age. That makes the new film the sonic champ on this list and the specials second place, leaving the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the DVDs (including Smallfoot) third place and just passable in this age of lossless audio.


Blaze has no extras, but Frosty and Town on the Christmas set have audio commentary tracks, plus we get Frosty pencil tests and featurettes The Animagic World Of Rankin/Bass, Restoring The Puppets Of Rudolph, Reimagining Rudolph In 4D, T.E.A.M. Rudolph and the Reindeer Games and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Attraction Film connected to the 4D project. Stubby has a Stills Gallery and three Making Of featurettes. Dawg offers a Trailer Gallery and one featurette.


That leaves Smallfoot with Digital HD Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the discs add a Sing-A-Long mode, Music Videos and Mini-Movie.



- Nicholas Sheffo


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